marriage counselors, mediators, court-appointed guardians, police officers, and
judges are human. Some of them are social reactionaries, others are
narcissists, and a few are themselves spouse abusers. Many things work against
the victim facing the justice system and the psychological profession.
denial. Abuse is such a horrid phenomenon that society and its delegates often
choose to ignore it or to convert it into a more benign manifestation,
typically by pathologizing the situation or the victim – rather than the
home is still his castle and the authorities are loath to intrude.
abusers are men and most victims are women. Even the most advanced communities
in the world are largely patriarchal. Misogynistic gender stereotypes,
superstitions, and prejudices are strong.
are not immune to these ubiquitous and age-old influences and biases.
amenable to the considerable charm, persuasiveness, and manipulativeness of the
abuser and to his impressive thespian skills. The abuser offers a plausible
rendition of the events and interprets them to his favor. The therapist rarely
has a chance to witness an abusive exchange first hand and at close quarters.
In contrast, the abused are often on the verge of a nervous breakdown:
harassed, unkempt, irritable, impatient, abrasive, and hysterical.
with this contrast between a polished, self-controlled, and suave abuser and
his harried casualties – it is easy to reach the conclusion that the real
victim is the abuser, or that both parties abuse each other equally. The prey's
acts of self-defense, assertiveness, or insistence on her rights are
interpreted as aggression, lability, or a mental health problem.
profession's propensity to pathologize extends to the wrongdoers as well. Alas,
few therapists are equipped to do proper clinical work, including diagnosis.
are thought by practitioners of psychology to be emotionally disturbed, the
twisted outcomes of a history of familial violence and childhood traumas. They
are typically diagnosed as suffering from a personality disorder, an
inordinately low self-esteem, or codependence coupled with an all-devouring
fear of abandonment. Consummate abusers use the right vocabulary and feign the
appropriate "emotions" and affect and, thus, sway the evaluator's
the victim's "pathology" works against her – especially in custody
battles – the culprit's "illness" works for him, as a mitigating circumstance,
especially in criminal proceedings.